Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas daze

Greetings, friends!  How was your Christmas?  Two of four of us woke up sick with colds on Christmas morning and have been in various states of ick ever since.  Between the fevers and coughing and the winter storm, we ended up changing our travel plans for this holiday.  Alas.  At least we are all together, and it doesn't mean we aren't having any fun.

snowball hit!

Check out these crazy elf hats (finished Christmas night and raveled here).

pointy elf hats

I'm a bit addicted to knitting them at the moment, I'm afraid.  As soon as the girls tried these on, I cast on for another...and have 3 more in the works.  It's entirely possible that I've gotten carried away, but I don't care.  They are too funny!

Wishing you a warm, relaxing holiday time with your loved ones.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas tree bokeh

Today was one of the most ridiculous days, start to finish.  So many things didn't go according to plan, so many sassy mouths and surly attitudes (and from not kids!) makes me want to look forward to the end of this "season of loving togetherness and giving" so people will calm down about twelve notches.

And then, I paused at the end of this long, crazy day.  I remembered how many of the bloggers I enjoy have paused to take a bokeh snap of their Christmas trees, so in that moment I decided to do the same.

Christmas bokeh

So beautiful.  I felt the stress melt away.
Amateur photography as a metaphor?
Stop fussing about all those details.  Let the focus shift and blur.
All those worries and strains and rudeness issues other people are having don't have to be my problem. This season can be as it is intended to be, if only we just pause and remember.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hitchhiker scarf


It was nearly a month of dedicated garter-stitching, but I did it.  I knit the ever-popular-on-ravelry Hitchhiker scarf as a Christmas gift for my daughter's beloved 2nd grade teacher.

With handmade gifts, I long ago learned that you have to enjoy the process and the result yourself, because you can never be sure how the recipient will respond.  The person might not like it.  She might not know how much effort and planning it takes, and even if she did, she might wish you'd just gone with a gift certificate instead.  It's not that I expect this to be the case, but really, you never know, so you have to be happy with it...and I am!

The pattern was super-simple and very satisfying.  I do not typically enjoy knitting scarves (too monotonous!), but this pattern was very approachable, even for me.  Each tooth requires 8 rows of knitting, so I could feel the progress and I always knew where the next stopping point was.  I'm sure the Noro yarn helped, because I do love watching those color changes.  This is called the Hitchhiker scarf because the original pattern and yarn yields 42 points.  I only reached 40 before capitulating to mild tendonitis and moderate readiness to move on.  It is over 6 feet long, so I doubt that's a problem!


Again, I'm not sure if she will like it or wear it, but I hope she does.
Meanwhile, I'm very tempted to knit another one.
There is a perfect red variegated yarn in my stash...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Peanut-butter-and-Nutella "pop-hearts"

Finding myself without bread or tortillas or pita and having 2 hungry kiddos in the house, I quickly whizzed some flour, salt, butter and ice water in the food processor and made plain pie crust.  Quick as a flash, I rolled it out, cut it with my largest heart-shaped cookie cutter and spread each heart with peanut butter and Nutella (one girl is a self-proclaimed jelly hater).  I placed another heart on top and crimped the edges with a fork.  10 minutes at 400F and voila!  Homemade "Pop-hearts"!

Peanut butter and Nutella "pop-hearts"

I thought these were absolutely darling and irresistible...therefore, the girls wouldn't touch them.
Thank goodness there was string cheese in the fridge, right?

Carrying on

I still feel striken by Friday's events.  My heart just aches, and every new detail released makes me feel sick.
It doesn't feel right to wallow.  It isn't my grief to share, so I'm going to move on in this space.  I'm going to post about baking and kids and crafting, because those are the simple daily pleasures that perhaps might help us all feel a bit better from time to time.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Yesterday, my children went to school and played with friends and laughed and sang and squabbled and cuddled and slept.  The same day was a day of unspeakable horror for families in Connecticut.  As a mother, I feel devastated beyond words. As a citizen, I feel anger and frustration and a sense of futility in the face of "freedom" that allows tragedies like these to occur.

evening colour

My girls are 7 and 4.  I don't know how much to tell them or even if I should tell them.  I know it is better to present them with facts and let them ask questions, to try to address their fears one by one and reassure them that we will do whatever we can to keep them safe.

I awoke this morning once again filled with heartbreak and incomprehension and deepest compassion for the children and families affected by this tragedy.  My heart and thoughts and prayers go out to them.  Never before has a traditional holiday wish for peace or comfort carried more weight.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Homemade hot cocoa elf-ing

Our wee one's school finishes for the season this Friday, so we needed to get busy on little gifts for her classmates.  I was inspired by this post on Angry Chicken to make homemade hot cocoa mix in jars.  This is easily something our 4-year-old can do for friends with a minimum of adult help.

  homemade hot cocoa mix

Amy's recipe was similar to Martha Stewart's: just sugar and cocoa powder.  She filled each jar about half-way and then topped it with mini-chocolate chips and mini-marshmallows.  We followed that pattern, but we used a different recipe.  I wanted something richer, and we found it here.  First, I double-checked with class moms to be sure no one had a dairy intolerance (otherwise, the sugar and cocoa recipe would be just fine).  Since it isn't an original recipe, I feel it's okay to repost.

Rich and fabulous homemade hot cocoa mix

3 cups non-fat dry milk powder
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1/4 tsp salt

Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Pulse the blend in a food processor until the white chocolate chips are reduced to a powder.  Store mix in an air-tight container for up to 3 months.
To make hot chocolate drink, stir 1/3 cup of mix into 1 cup of hot milk or water.

homemade hot cocoa process pics

If you are interested in encouraging independence in your wee one, most stages of this project can be done easily without adult intervention:
  • pour the measured cups into a large bowl
  • stir the mix together
  • pulse the food processor or simply press the "on" or "off" buttons
  • use a small scoop (like a 1/4 cup measure) to scoop the finished mix into clean glass jars
  • sprinkle the mini-chips and mini-mallows on top to fill
  • place the lids on top
  • screw the lids in place 

Monday, December 10, 2012

For our feathered friends

Last week, Stephanie spied pinecones swinging on strings in the trees around Ellie's school.  The Kindergarten class had been making bird feeders.  Not sure how a pinecone could be a bird feeder, Stephanie declared that would be our next project.  Lucky us ran into a neighbor that same morning who had leftover pinecones from her Thanksgiving centrepiece, so we had four to start.

pinecone bird feeder

If you've never made a pinecone bird feeder, the process is very simple.  Tie a length of string or yarn or ribbon in a loop and wedge one side of that loop into the top of the pinecone.  Using a smooth knife or spreading tool (like a small spatula), spread peanut butter all over the pinecone.  Smoothing up from the bottom helps wedge the peanut butter in the nooks and crannies.  Then, roll the peanut-butter-covered in bird seed.

pinecone bird feeder

Hang it from a branch and tah-dah!  Watch your feathered friends enjoy their gift.


I couldn't get a close picture, but the birds loved Stephanie's feeder.  She hung it in a bush just outside our kitchen window, so I enjoyed watching the sparrows come all afternoon and even a lady cardinal joined in.  We strongly suspect the deer were interested in it too, because it was halfway down the driveway the next morning, smooshed flat on one side.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Photo gift tags

Scrambling to make the international shipping deadline, I wrapped these gifts today and realized the girls hadn't yet made gift tags for them.  On a whim, I selected special (several years old) photos of the recipients and printed them out as a contact sheet.  I cut wide borders around each and simply taped them onto the package.

photo gift tag

photo gift tag

Now, it's very simple to see whose is whose, and the photo memories are so sweet.
How is your elf-ing coming along?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Banana mini-muffins

At my younger daughter's school, the kids take turns providing snacks.  Today was our day.  We baked banana mini-muffins from a banana bread recipe I've been tweaking over the years, and they went like hot cakes!  I sent 2 dozen for 8 kids and none were left over.  One mom texted me later that her son said today's snack was "the best best best snack ever!"

So you know these are fully kid-endorsed (though I admit the mini-size is a key selling point to the 5-and-under set).

banana mini-muffins

Banana bread or muffins or mini-muffins

1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar (natural cane sugar if you have it)
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup natural plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
cooking spray (I use coconut oil spray)

Preheat oven to 350F/160C.
Prepare loaf pan with cooking spray or line muffin tray and spray with cooking spray (not required but the muffin will stick a bit to the paper without the spray).
Whisk together flours, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together oil and sugar until fully combined.  
Beat in eggs one at a time.  
Add banana, yogurt and vanilla; beat until blended.
Add flour mixture, blending at low speed until just combined.
Spoon batter into pan or muffin cups.
Bake at 350F/160C: about 1 hour for bread, 30 minutes for regular muffins and 12-15 minutes for mini-muffins.
Cool bread in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.
Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.
Watch them disappear!

*makes one loaf, one dozen muffins or about 4 dozen mini-muffins

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Free kittens" (are not)

snuggling cats

Yesterday, we spent a small fortune paying the local vet an exorbitant fee to spay our two adopted "free kittens" (now cats).  I could not believe the price tag.  But then I see this...

sweet loungers

Stephanie and her cat

...and I know these cats are not free, but priceless.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Grand intentions

Sometime last month, I started pondering the upcoming Christmas gifting season.  I looked over my yarn stash and came up with some truly grand plans for homemade gifting, involving more hand-knits than I could possibly finish in 3 months and certainly not in the one month I had (unless I gave up sleep, which alas I am unwilling to do).

High on delusion, I cast on for the Hitchhiker scarf, to be gifted to my daughter's beloved teacher.

Hitchhiker scarf

I carried it with me everywhere...

Hitchhiker scarf

...for about a week.  Then, reality set in.

The pace has slowed considerably (I average one point per day...and there will be 42 total) and I now accept this will likely be the only hand-knitted gift completed before this holiday, but I do love it.
I hope her teacher will too.

Any handmades in your holiday plans?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tea Advent calendar

tea Advent calendar

Last year, I received my first "grown-up" Advent calendar from the wonderful Aussie Mum: a bag of tea for each day of December leading up to Christmas.  Such a simple idea but it felt so special, I had to return the favour this year and pay it forward as well.

Before Thanksgiving, I posted out four tea Advent calendars to girlfriends Down Under and two more stateside.  I love that my tea-drinking girlfriends will have a cuppa from me each day, a small daily reminder that I'm thinking of them.

With so many calendars in progress, I could vary the daily flavours quite a bit so I bought eight varieties of tea.  I wrote out the numbers 1-24 on white card stock and my girls helped me colour them in.  I stapled the numbers to each tea bag on the border and posted them out in a padded envelope.  For the one calendar that didn't need posting, my daughter helped me to redecorate one of the empty tea boxes, which made perfect packaging.

Tea Advent Calendar idea originated from Domesticali.  Thanks, Ali!